If you like your cocktails strong and named for quirky San Franciscans, Virgil's Sea Room is the place for you. It even has that New Bar Smell.
Replacing the former Nap's III, and adjacent to El Rio, it's a place where you can drink a Warren Hellman, a Vicki Marlane or a Frank Chu. (The Warren Hellman, a whiskey cooler made with Evan Williams, basil simple syrup, ginger beer, and lemon, is sure to be a draw whenever the marine layer decides to mind its own business for an afternoon. Same goes for the wonderful melted Popsicle that was the basil gimlet).
With simple, fresh ingredients and a little spin on every drink, the idea is "to get a cocktail in your hand," says mixologist Gillian Fitzgerald, who makes a Negroni with Cynar in lieu of Campari. (It's an artichoke-heavy Italian liqueur, and worth trying.) Beer fans have Truer, Guinness, Blue Moon and Big Daddy on tap, as well as a large bottle selection, including Goose Island's spicy Belgian Strong Pale Ale, Matilda.
Like jetsam that washed ashore at some marvelously kitschy resort in the Keys, the interior is a careful study in curated effluvia. David Marks, the designer, put up black flocked wallpaper (which he discovered "under layers and layers of beer posters and paraphernalia") to created a welcoming, neighborhood space "filled with vintage art and furniture, for complexity."
Named after a project by one of the co-owner's playwright uncles, Virgil's is a gay-heavy quasi-dive with great cocktails and a queer aesthetic. In other words, while neither a proper gay bar nor a dive, it represents the future of both, and complements El Rio well. When its patio eventually opens, you'll be able to enjoy that Sazerac (made with Monkey Shoulder scotch) in the fresh air -- and maybe the queue for Hard French won't be quite so interminable?
Speaking of Hard French, Virgil's co-owner Tom Temprano is DJ Carnita, and therefore the heat was on for the jukebox. I walked in to "Soul Finger" by the Bar-Kays and out to "Beetlebum" by Blur, and there's plenty of Grimes, Fleetwood Mac, and the Cure on there. If you want to burn through the cocktail list while tearing it up to the entire "Jackie Brown" soundtrack, it's a good bet some denizen of the Sea Room will buy you one.
Virgil's Sea Room, 3152 Mission, 829-2233.
Follow Pete at @wannacyber